Liverpool stats analysis: Firmino stars versus Hoffenheim as Moreno seeks redemption
Five is a magic number for Liverpool, so it is fitting that the Reds became the fifth English side to qualify for the Champions League proper this season.
During a thrilling 90 minutes at Anfield, Liverpool delivered a stunning attacking display against 1899 Hoffenheim, overwhelming their German opponents with the type of pace, movement and one-touch passing that has become their hallmark under Jurgen Klopp.
The Reds surged out of the blocks in typical fashion, with two cool Emre Can finishes sandwiching a Mohamed Salah tap-in to fire Liverpool into a 3-0 lead.
Liverpool’s defensive flaws were momentary exposed when Hoffenheim substitute Mark Uth, who was introduced shortly after the Reds’ third goal in a tactical reshuffle, pulled a goal back just short of the half-hour mark.
Liverpool continued to punctuate sustained attacking brilliance with moments of defensive indecision after the break, with the superb Robert Firmino and Sandro Wagner exchanging second half goals as the Reds completed a 4-2 win on the night and a 6-3 aggregate triumph.
So as fans across the country catch the breath, the Boot Room looks at four interesting statistics to surface after the game:
3 – Roberto Firmino can star in Coutinho’s absence
Watching the speed and fluency of Liverpool’s attack (and the porous nature of their defence), the ongoing saga surrounding Philippe Coutinho suddenly seemed all the more surreal. After all, with Sky Sports reporting that Barcelona are set to return with a potential deal worth £138 million for the Brazilian, it would surely make sense for the Reds to cash in and reinforce their back-line?
This argument is made all the more compelling by the form of fellow Samba star Roberto Firmino, who bamboozled Hoffenheim with his movement and energy throughout.
Firmino not only expertly converted one of his two shots on target during the game, but he also laid on a superb assist for Can’s second goal and completed three key passes. He also successfully completed three dribbles, as he showcased his full range of skills in front of an enthralled Anfield crowd.
The quality of the link-up play between Firmino, Sadio Mane and Salah was breathtaking at times, and there is no doubt that the Brazilian could lead this attack should the club ultimately be persuaded to part ways with Coutinho.
This would be a brave call, but it is one that could afford Firmino centre stage and improve Liverpool’s squad immeasurably over the course of the season.
42 – Hoffenheim highlight Liverpool’s flaws
Despite their much-vaunted brilliance in attack, Liverpool were somewhat fortunate that they did not face stronger opposition at Anfield.
Not only did the Germans score twice, but they also created at least two more excellent chances and were a constant threat when attacking the considerable space left in-behind Liverpool’s defence.
The Reds should certainly be concerned at the ease with which Hoffenheim broke through their rearguard, as they mounted a total of 84 attacks during the game (one more than Liverpool). 42 of these were classed as dangerous, as the Bundesliga side more than matched their hosts in terms of building attacks and creating shooting positions.
The difference was that the Germans lacked Liverpool’s clinical finishing in the final third, while the greater incisiveness in their play also ensured that the hosts created more clear-cut chances in front of goal.
This may not always be the case, and Liverpool simply cannot afford Europe’s top sides the same amount of space if they are to thrive in the Champions League or mount a domestic title challenge.
7 – Alberto Moreno can deliver on the Anfield stage
The sight of Spanish full-back Alberto Moreno as the furthest man forward in stoppage time (while the Reds defended a 4-2 lead on the night) is typical of the player, who often seems to value attacking intent over any semblance of defensive discipline or positional sense.
Despite this, his performance against Hoffenheim was arguably one of his finest in a Liverpool shirt, as he defended well when required and posed a potent threat in attack. His total of seven clearances was second only to Dejan Lovren (14) for the home side, while he also made two crucial interceptions as the game wore on.
Going the other way, Moreno also completed two dribbles and two key passes, while he even managed to get away a shot at Oliver Baumann’s goal.
Moreno is clearly keen to get it right at Anfield, and this energetic and accomplished performance offers genuine hope that he can cement the left-back position. This would definitely be a weight off Jurgen Klopp’s mind, particularly given the lack of defensive experience that he has in reserve.
95.7% – Can delivers an economic performance that makes Liverpool tick
If there has been a criticism of Liverpool’s midfield in recent times, it is that they lack diversity and the guile required to unlock tight defences. Not only this, but the side has also lacked a controlling influence in the middle of the park since the departure of Steven Gerrard, although an unlikely solution may now have presented itself in the form of Emre Can.
The enigmatic German has often cut a frustrated figure at Anfield, punctuating inconsistent and anonymous displays with moments of brilliance. Not only was he outstanding against Hoffenheim, but he also showcased an economy to his game that helped the Reds to control the tempo from the start.
Aside from his marauding runs and two clinical goals (from four attempts on goal), Can achieved a pass completion rate of 95.7%, despite only having 33 touches of the ball. This highlighted his ability to shift the play quickly and accurately, while looking to minimise unnecessary touches of the ball and establish the Reds’ rapid tempo going forward.
Like Moreno, Can is looking to win over the Anfield faithful and fulfill his obvious potential on one of England’s grandest stages. Performances of this ilk will go a long way towards achieving this aim, particularly if Can can begin to dominate games and bring some control to Liverpool’s midfield.
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